Integrating swales into an area which will be fenced for rotational grazing changes the requirements for fencing in several ways. First let me define some terms. A Swale is a ditch on contour which is used to stop and soak water, stop erosion, and provide a uncompacted mound which is good for growing trees. Rotational grazing is an animal and land management strategy which attempts to maximize the productivity of a grazing scheme while regenerating and improving landscape, improve animal health by grazing an area once in a minimum of 21 days to break pest cycles and allow regenerative growth of forages, reducing or eliminating feed and fuel and labor inputs and the making of hay, and distributing urine and manure evenly throughout the system in a way that is beneficial to the land and animals.
In the picture below, I show the system I installed on the farm and have been moving pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and rabbits through it. I wrote the word for each item in the color it is drawn in. As you can see, the swales have fencing on both sides to keep large animals from degrading the earthwork while allowing the smaller animals access to them. The birds are beneficial to the swales, they are too light to degrade them and they forage on and fertilize them. Fencing on both sides adds initial cost, labor, materials, length and complexity. It results in a system that day to day, is very user friendly and lays nice on the landscape because it follows the natural contours of the land. When the trees I planted on the swales are more mature, it will result in shade being distributed throughout my pastures, changing the species of grasses which can survive and providing shade to my animals and habitat for wild animals and insects.
In my setup, the animals have access at all times to a 110 gallon spring fed water tank, a simple rain shelter, a wooded loafing area near the water for shade, a 2 acre forest paddock rotated weekly, and the laneway which connects all the paddocks with one of the gates open and a new section of pasture daily. To clarify, I have one of the red gates open to one of the paddocks and after that I have a temporary fence with polyrope and step in posts run perpendicular to the paddock that I move 30-50' back daily. When I reach the end of a paddock (the side furthest from the red gate), I open the next paddock in the rotation and close off last one. I feed a small amount of grain, eggs, and molasses in the central area to keep them occupied while I move the fencing. I can get this "chore" done in 15 minutes and is all the pigs need in a day. I don't need to clean up poop, carry water, change bedding, and my animals are staying very healthy with no worming or vaccinations.
In late summer, I intend to leave some of the paddocks to grow to their full height and let them stand into the dormant season. I will then creep graze through this standing forage in the winter. I may not be able to have as many animals this way, but I won't need to buy or store hay, nor buy the expensive equipment and buildings and fuel and time and labor to make it and put it up. Not making or buying hay and holding to your winter carrying capacity increases the profitability of a farm according to modern grazers such as Jim Gerrish author of "Kick the Hay Habit" and "Management Intensive Grazing".
See the posted video for a better visual explanation. Enjoy!
The wall is up to the second course of bags and the first course of foam insulation with vapor barrier is up. In the video, I discuss the geotextile and where I plan to run the cooltubes.
Now that the farm is running nicely, fencing done, pigs trained, chickens ducks turkeys and rabbits doing well, it's time to work on the house again. In this video, I show the installation of the rubble trench foundation and the geotextile which will make the main mass wall of the house monolithic and explain why that is a good thing. I talk about the method for filling the earthbags (which is now somewhat different and better) and show the materials used in building an earthbag earthship with no concrete, which is likely the first earthship style building to be done this way. Credit for the engineering and innovative design ideas must be given to the Architect, Howard Switzer from earthandstraw.com
After rotating through the entire training pen, I moved the pigs out of the pen and out into the main paddock shift system. In the video I explain the grazing system, water, shelter, fencing, the laneway, and the forest paddocks.
For my own piece of mind, I decided to install a 26" welded wire physical barrier around my entire 20 acre grazing system. The pigs had already been in the corral for 2 1/2 weeks which was longer than I had planned. They had eaten everything green in it and it was getting nasty. To get them on grass while I got the perimeter fenced, I built a 6 cell rotational grazing pen for the pigs to move around in until the grazing system was ready.
We have been working feverishly to get the fencing ready for the new arrival. We got 11 - 6 week old 3/4 mulefoot 1/4 duroc piglets from a local farmer. We got them installed in the training pen which consists of a cattle panel and t post exterior with a copy of the interior electric fence inside. This corral works to back a trailer into it for loading/unloading, has a physical barrier on the exterior, and allows any animals we get to become "acquainted" with the electric fence with little chance of escape.
Next in the series I show the finished swale with dam. I talk about the water levels and the importance of the spillway. I show how to lay out your water lines for putting the topsoil back. I then show the installation of the culverts going under the road.
Next up in this series I build the swale to push some better clay into the keyway under the dam. I discuss how to keep your survey flags in place while digging the pond, the importance of freeboard and having a properly designed spillway. Then the dam wall begins to take shape.
This series will document the explanation, layout and installation of a backflood swale attached to a dam with a road crossing the swale with culverts under the road.
A backflood swale is a rain water harvesting earthwork on contour which is attached to a dam and is used to divert water from a catchment area to a dam and to move water from the dam across landscape. It is useful to increase the catchment area that feeds a dam and can be used to put the spillway farther from the dam.
A backflood swale fit into my design because I wanted to hold more water up higher in my pasture and I needed an access road to run close to the dam so I had to find a different location for the spillway.
On the farm, I try to DIY everything. I need a water line run from the house out into a centrally located area in my rotational grazing setup. I have access to a good tractor and I wanted a subsoiler anyways to do keyline plowing so I got a subsoiler and used it to install the water line. Stacking functions is a good thing.
As with all digging projects, be careful where you dig so you don't hit anything important underground and call diggers hotline if your not sure.